About the Cheburashka story

The Cheburashka is a Russian fairy tale creature from a story by writer Eduard Uspensky. It is also the star of an animated cartoon series by Soyuzmultfilm studio.

According to the story line, the Cheburashka is an odd little creature, unknown to science, who lived in the forest in the tropics. He got into a crate of oranges to eat, ate his fill and fell then asleep.

The word “Cheburashka” is not a personal name; it is the name of a specie that was invented by the puzzled owner of the store, where he was found. The store owner took the furry animal out of the box and sat him down on the table, but his little paws were numb after the journey in the crate and he tumbled down from the table onto the chair and then onto the floor. The shop owner declared him “Cheburashka!” an old colloquialism from Russia, which translates roughly in English to,"tumbled")

The cute little Cheburashkas have a bear-like body and large round ears, and is about the size of a 5-year old child. In the stories, he hangs around with a friendly alagator or crocodile Gena, who wears a hat and a coat, walks on his hind legs and plays an accordion.

In the cartoon, Cheburashka and Gena have their adventures made difficult by a character named "Shapoklyak"(Old Lady Shapoklyak, from French chapeau-claque, a kind of top hat). Shapoklyak is a mischievous but charming old lady. She is tall and thin, wears a hat and a dark-colored dress, and carries around her sidekick rat "Lariska" in her purse to help her play pranks on people. The chorus of her theme song contains her motto, "One won't ever get famous for good deeds".

Cheburashka was chosen as an official mascot for the Russian Olympic Team for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece. Cheburashka dolls were also seen with members of the Russian team in 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. He is also one of the few Russian animation characters to be a subject of numerous Russian jokes and riddles.

Cheburashka is now a staple of Russian cartoons, and there are several licensed products on the market, such as children's books and stuffed toys and gifts.

Cheburashka also became known in some countries outside the former Soviet Union (and of the Soviet Bloc). He became very popular in Japan after animated film series about him were shown in 15 cinemas all over Japan and were watched by approx. 700,000 Japanese between summer 2001 and spring 2002.

Like Mickey Mouse, his U.S. colleague, he was a leading cartoon character for millions of Soviet children. He inspired numerous jokes and even served as a symbol for the liberal intelligentsia. Today, Cheburashka -- the small, hairy animated creature with big round ears -- is enjoying success in what might seem to be an unlikely place: Japan.

Cheburashka has been something of a cult phenomenon in Japan since 2001, when the original Soviet cartoons were shown in Japanese movie theaters, sparking sales of Cheburashka T-shirts, toys and other merchandise. Now, he is poised to make even deeper inroads into Japanese pop culture, with the announcement last month that a Tokyo-based company will make a feature film about him. The company, TV Tokyo Broadband Entertainment, acquired the rights to make a new film starring Cheburashka, as well as his friend Crocodile Gena, an intelligent, pipe-smoking reptile, and their archnemesis, the nasty Old Lady Shapoklyak.

"It's a human drama with a very cute story and adorable characters which appeal to all ages. I believe this project has the heart, soul and power to touch everyone. This will be quality entertainment," said TV Tokyo Broadband Entertainment chairman Koji Komibayashy in a statement.

TV Tokyo Broadband Entertainment is owned by the TV Tokyo Group, which broadcasts throughout Japan as Channel 12 and is known for animated series such as the international hit "Pokemon." The rights to remake the Cheburashka story were acquired from Films by Jove, a Los Angeles-based company that owns the international rights for a number of Soviet-made cartoons.

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